CLEVELAND - There's much more to the Super Bowl than the rivalries, food and beer, or the fact it's the most watched television show of the year.
The Super Bowl is "the single largest human trafficking incident in the U.S.," explains Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Experts say huge sporting events like the Super Bowl are targets for sex traffickers because there are so many people, so many things happening, that traffickers and their victims become hidden in the crowds.
"It's not so much that you become a victim at the Super Bowl, but that many victims are brought in to be used for all the men at the Super Bowl," explained Stephanie Kilper, a representative for Operation Freedom Taskforce in Akron, an organization which aims to end the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
A study by Traffick911, in conjunction with law enforcement, monitored the 2011 Super Bowl online escort ads. They found such ads increased steadily from 135 on a Saturday in mid-January to 367 on the Saturday before the Big Game.
Even worse, during the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, the Florida Commission Against Human Trafficking estimated that "tens of thousands of women and minors" were trafficked in the Miami area, according to reports. One human trafficker was arrested and jailed for selling a 14 and 18-year-old for $300 as "a Super Bowl special."
The HuffPost reported as of Friday, there have been eight human-trafficking related arrests in New Orleans and five women rescued.
Being aware of the problem and knowing that it's happening so you can keep your eyes open about what's going on around you are the first steps in helping end the criminal activity.
"Then, pray and give. Prayer is such a powerful way to combat trafficking. It accomplishes more than one might think," Kilper said. "And give. Give to the organizations that are fighting human trafficking. They have the ability to go in and save these men, women and children. But they need the funds to keep their organizations going."
You can help combat human trafficking:
- Raise your awareness and educate others
- Organize to help. If you're particularly motivated, consider hosting an event or starting a group to fight against trafficking in your community
- Write editorials, letters to the editor, blog
- Volunteer to help organizations that are working to end sex trafficking
- Advocate for stronger laws. Find out what your elected representatives are doing to end trafficking and how you can help
- Report suspected incidents of trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. This hotline is not only to report suspected trafficking, but to get help if you have been a human trafficking victim
Operation Freedom Taskforce exists to fight human trafficking in all its forms through awareness, prayer, and fundraising. The organization believes in order to fight the problem, people must first know there is one.
On April 9, Operation Freedom Taskforce will host an event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Cornerstone Free Methodist Church on Killian Road in Akron. It's part of the interactive Shine a Light on Slavery Day where you can learn more about human trafficking, ask questions, get prayer, learn specific ways to pray, and ways you can get involved in the fight against modern-day slavery. You can email OFT: